On startups, nudity, creative disruption and the Spirit of Punk

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The Arms Race Between Teenagers And Parents Continues

Tonight is the launch of the project to raise money for the charity Take Heart India, which teaches IT skills to blind and disabled people in India and helps them get skills that will employ them for the rest of their life, taking them out of the cycle of poverty. You can find out more about an LDNnudetech event to support them below, but I just want to say something first about startups, entrepreneurs and the Spirit of Punk. Yes.

This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week. This actually started out life as an initiative by the UK government, internally to the UK. But cleverly they have extended it globally and brought on partners. So all over the world there are events going on to promote the idea of entrepreneurship.

At the same time, governments all over the world are bailing out banks. Either that, or the banks are allowed to fail, taking startups and small businesses with them. It’s an impossible situation, but that’s what’s happening. Many say we are in for even more pain. Already millions are unemployed across the planet. None of this is going away anytime soon.

The answer lies, of course in giving people the ability to say, not “Gizza job“, but “I made a job for myself. I’m making a company, my own.” Setting alight in them the idea that they can creatively disrupt their circumstances to produce something new.

But, of course often startups require capital to just get going.

A couple of years ago the UK government disincentivised high net worth individuals from investing in startups, by removing a clause on rules governing capital gains tax. In the last year France has enacted a new law to incentivise wealthy people to invest in startups. The German government is known to be looking at copying the law, it has been so successful. In the UK? Not a whimper of such a law is being proposed. So far most of the talk has been about how wealthy people, potential Angel investors – who in the past were incentivised to stay in the UK and invest their money a great deal more flexibly than a bank ever could – are to be taxed even more.

There’s more. The government here used to have something known as the Small Firms Loan Guarantee – this used to allow banks to loan up to £250,000. The banks put in 30% and the Government underwrote the rest. It was simple to apply for, it just need sponsorship by a friendly bank.

The government converted into this into the The Enterprise Fund Guarantee. I’ve spoken to many entrepreneurs and they say things like “frankly, it’s impossible to get.“ These funds are meant to go up to £1 million – but you can imagine how few people are actually getting them in the current climate.

The irony is that the government-owned banks are now, anecdotally, the worse at funding startups.

We’re now back in an era which resembles the 1970s era of old, slow moving industries unable to come up with the answers for the population. We’re in a downturn era very similar to the same time when Punk Rock was born. Punk was creative disruption made very visible. And it gave rise literally to a New Wave of music.

How does all this relate to a calendar being sold for a technology charity which features semi-nude entrepreneurs from London? I’ll tell you how:

These people are the continuation of Punk Rock, because they represent creative disruption. Want me to spell it out? They don’t give a fuck. They think nothing of disrobing for a charity, whether other people think it’s shocking or not.

And that’s what startups are about: not caring that someone says you’re wrong and it’s not a good idea. Just getting on and doing something. And that’s what Punk was about. Picking up a guitar even though you couldn’t play.

These people are not saying – give us money for this charity. They are saying – we’re going to be creative about this. We’re going to do something which makes you look, and in doing so, see this charity. Check out how many pages there are on twitter for LDNnudetech.

Creative, disruption, startups. Just go and Google it. There’s even a blog and upcoming book about it.

I was reminded of this when attending a recent event by the British Computer Society, “The Chartered Institute for IT”. A, shall we say older, representative of theirs kept on going on about how people didn’t talk about “IT” enough and about how “IT” needed to be more recognised.

At the end I put my hand in the air and said, look, people are talking about TECH all the time, not “IT” – look at how much the media is obsessed with Facebook and Twitter. Look at how mainstream social media has become and how people now buy handsets based on Twitter and Facebook. That is ALL tech. The ‘problem’ for the BCS is that it’s not “traditional IT” and – unfortunately – it’s rarely coming from Britain.

“Tech” and tech startups are really the Punk response to the staid, corporate world of “IT”.

And guess where it’s coming from? It’s largely – at least in the last few years, and discounting Skype – coming from Silicon Valley, a place where they too don’t give a toss unless you are trying to change the world. The place where Hippies and Beatniks came from to shock America. Creative Disruption.

So tonight, those who want to go to the launch of this #LDnnudetech calendar, buy one and support their fellow techies in a less fortunate part of the world, will do so. Some of them even got a bit semi-naked for it. Ooooer. If you want to meet them then go to the Velvet Room at Sway in Covent Garden at 7pm. Here’s more:

Nude London Tech Calendar from Leapanywhere.com on Vimeo.

At the same time there will be a Black Tie awards dinner across town in the Science Museum to celebrate the iAwards. Astoundingly this is the first ever awards for startup innovation in technology and science in the UK. You know who started it? James Caan, an entrepreneur and now a famous member of the BBC’s Dragons Den show. Do you know where James came from? A very poor part of London. Do you think he cared what people thought of him when he started out as an entrepreneur? No. He just did it.

Creative disruption.

P.S. I think I might start a band called The Tech Pistols. Who’s in?

  • http://thenextwomen.com Simone Brummelhuis

    I want to be in that band, singing, I once did audition (i.e. pitched) for a band in my twenties, and I failed. I was devastated. I hope that lost pitch does not matter, because accepting failures and go-on is part of a disruptive, startup culture and .. hopefully of a band. So I will pitch again for a place in the band.

  • http://buildor.com James Law

    Me! Me! I know *all* the chords to Ever Fallen in Love and Pretty Vacant!

  • http://www.freddestin.com Fred Destin

    No government money, thank you. Government please focus on really great science, education and infrastructure. Keep up some of the good work Nesta is doing such as bringing over valley luminaries, and yes do sing the praises of entrepreneurship to young people through initiatives like entrepreneurship week.

    But stop wasting our money investing in companies and funds.

    Give tax and social security breaks to innovative companies and the people who back them. Make rules for issuing options simple and tax efficient. Give us the framework and the scientists. Give us the engineers and the felixibility to fail. Then let us get on with it.

    I have to smile (gently) as the punk comparison. How many of us are willing to let go of the profitability and success ethos in true punk style ? How disruptive are we willing to be to our own preconceived ideas ? Can we challenge our own club and decide not to join it ?

  • http://techfluff.tv hermione way

    Can I be the drummer?

  • http://yiannopoulos.net/ Milo Yiannopoulos

    I’ll do PR!

  • http://www.zebtab.com Damon Oldcorn

    nice one Mike – keep kicking

  • http://www.thedailydust.co.uk/2009/11/17/get-your-ram-disk-out-for-charity/ Get your Ram Disk out for charity as UK Tech Scene launches nude calendar | The Daily Dust | UK News | Good News

    […] to Mike Butcher at Techcrunch Europe for the Punk reasoning to get naked! Now go buy one! Share This […]

  • http://unistartups.slinkset.com/ Isaac Lewis

    Great article. You’ve articulated something that I’ve felt for a while, but haven’t been able to put into words – the phrase “IT” feels corporate, dull, and, quite frankly, boring. “Tech” is vibrant, dynamic and fun.

    I’ve posted this article to http://unistartups.slinkset.com/ – Hacker News for British students building startups.

  • http://uk.techcrunch.com Mike Butcher

    Fred, yes, that’s what I’m saying – keep government money out of funding, and incentivise a new wave of angels who can create lots and lots of fast moving startups that also get the opportunity to fail without too much fallout – that will create the innovation culture we need. You can’t be a punk without first failing to play guitar, but then learning. U2 were punks, but eventually learnt their instruments. We need that culture in business and the faster we get it the faster we’ll virally spread the notion of people taking up the tools to help themselves – not waiting for government bailouts or for ‘someone else’ to give them a job.

  • http://www.freddestin.com Fred Destin

    well said guv.

  • http://www.groupspaces.com Andy Young

    Great, I’ll play bass. You can refer to me by my stage name – Code Bass..

  • Paddy James

    “These people are the continuation of Punk Rock, because they represent creative disruption. Want me to spell it out? They don’t give a fuck. They think nothing of disrobing for a charity, whether other people think it’s shocking or not”

    Um, bit of a faulty analogy. The calendar gag was popularized twenty years ago by the Women’s Institute. The criticism is not that it’s shocking, but that it’s a tawdry, overcooked cliche, full of self-conscious look-at-me wackiness. Not inventive, not subversive, just tedious in its neediness for pingbacks and RTs.

    Admittedly, punk was full of brilliant self-publicists like Malcolm McLaren, who created a noisy press-grabbing “scene” out of not very much substance at all. Given the frankly feeble track records of most of these self-facilitating calendar nodes, perhaps the comparison’s not so bad. Small wonder London remains such an entrepreneurial backwater when lame stunts like this are seen as a substitute for the real graft of business-building.

    • http://twitter.com/mikebutcher Mike Butcher

      I think you’ll find the sexual undertones of the project are not what you normally find in a normal business atmosphere. Plus the veiled threats that came out about how some ‘businessmen’ might not do business with a woman who’d been in the calendar – well that says it all really. It’s punk alright.

  • Davros

    Using ‘Tech’ instead of ‘IT’, wild and crazy. I think theres a place for both. The BCS is great at churning out endless white papers and worrying about offshoring but if I wanted to someone to write the code for my fighter jet or MRI machine they’re the guys I’ll go to.

    If I want someone to connect my Twitter feed to a toaster, with obligatory ratings system and RSS feed, then make a 15 minute presentation at an unconfernence likely called tOAst 20:10 NOW ‘defining the future or bread based social communication’ I’ll call in my black rimmed ‘tech’ buddies.

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